by Ignacy Jan Paderewski [1]

Mr. Chairman, Gentlemen of the National Security League, Ladies and Gentlemen, my Sisters and Brothers:[2]

It is rather late, I am a little tired, and still I am obliged to take my humble share in this oratorical contest, which up to this moment, has been so exceptionally successful and brilliant. I feel embarrassed. So many kind and gracious things have been said during this memorable day about Poland, about our honored guest and members of the Polish Military Mission, and about myself, that I don`t really know how to express my appreciation and gratitude. I feel very embarrassed. There is, however, a fact, a positive and undeniable fact, which to a certain extent, simplifies and facilitates my tusk. Long before my assuming the responsibility of representing the people of Poland Military Mission, Poland had already over four millions of her representatives in this country. Four millions people, peaceful, loyal, laborious and worthy people. Not all of them are laborers, workmen or farmers. A great many of them were and are clergymen, physicians, lawyers, bakers or merchants, men of responsibility and of knowledge and of distinction. Some of them, like Bishop Rhode; (applause) like my dear friend Smulski (applause) let us call him John, and like Dr. Fronczak, like the Presidents of the Polish organizations, Helinski, Piotrowski, Starzynski and quite a few others, who rank very high among the American citizens of foreign birth or extraction. The purity, the honesty, the dignity of their life, has taught you more about Poland, about her character, institutions, integrity and honor than any official spokesman could do. This magnificent meeting of today, the splendor of this very reception, must be considered as a compliment to them, and we are all glad and proud. We feel joyful and thankful, we feel infinitely grateful for having been permitted to see at this solemn hour those of our blood enjoying such unanimous respect and such fraternal affection of the masters of the country of the old stock Americans. [Applause]

Over seventy years ago, the greatest poet of Poland, Adam Mickiewicz towards the end of his wonderful book on the Polish Pilgrims, wrote in poetic ecstasy, a fervent, glowing prayer which contains the following words:[3]

“Oh, God of Kosciuszko, have pity on our country and us. Grant us to pray again to Thee as our fathers prayed on the battlefield, with weapons in our hands before the altar made of guns and cannon beneath the canopy of our eagles and of our flags and grant onto our families to pray in the churches of our towns and hamlets and to our children to pray.”

Then in a sublime litany, which closes the inspired poem Mickiewicz exclaimed for a universal war, for the freedom of the nations, with this passage:

“O Lord for national arms and eagles, we beseech Thee; Oh, Lord, for the independence, integrity and freedom of our country we beseech Thee, Oh, Lord.”

The poet’s prayer has been answered. [Applause] His prophetic dreams have been almost materialized. The great war has come. [Applause] It has come with all the brutality and horror, but it fulfilled his unselfish desires; has it brought independence, integrity, and freedom to the country on whose behalf the inspired exile implore the Almighty with his eloquence and ardor? For almost three years, tortured by the invader, ill-treated by the defender, by the so-called Russian brother, slandered by our numerous enemies, with our complaining voice scarcely audible in the chorus of worthy, deserving and better known victims, Poland has been neglected throughout the most appalling tragedy in her history. Yet she had failed to arouse broadcast, the interest and sympathy, she has failed to attract wide, general attention. Nobody seems to care for our country. However gloomy was the outlook, Poland hoped and prayed like her people did, and she trusted and was looking forward to a miracle. The miracle came. On January 22nd 1917, a great and noble man raised his mighty voice and said a few words in Poland`s favor, a few words only, but he shook the world. They stirred all the oppressed nations, they made all the oppressors shiver, because these few words came from your country, because they were spoken by your President. [Applause] God bless the President (prolonged applause) and God bless his noble friend, Colonel House. [Applause]

“A little over two months later, the greatest republic the world has ever known joined the Allied Forces. From then on, the terrific conflict entirely changed its character and aspects. While remaining on the side what it was from the start, a daring and brutal, malicious aggression for aggrandizement and for conquest, a bold and malicious, unscrupulous criminal attack upon peaceful people for splendor and for quick enrichment, ti is not only fighting in self-defence, it is no more a heroic struggle for existance only, it is a war of ideas and of ideas. It is a holy war for which Mickiewicz of Poland has been praying for it is a universal war for the freedom of the nations. [Applause]

“For anybody who has but a rudimentary knowledge of American history, it is obvious that chivalry, disinterested unselfish purpose in collective actions are just as inborn with the American people as ruthlessness and cruelty and greed are inherent in the enemy. [Applause]. Liberty, equality and fraternity have not been made in Germany, [Applause]. They were born here in America, in Philadelphia, on the Fourth of July, 1776, thirteen years before receiving their magic name in the French Revolution (applause Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were in the hearts of your illustrations Forefathers. If not on their lips, when the Independence of this blessed country of yours was proclaimed, for these noble principles, your fathers did not hesitate to take up arms nor to engage in a long, terrific fratricidal conflict in order to lift up to the high level of American citizenship the humble and ignorant subjected portions of humanity. [Applause].

“For these very reasons, for these principles, you have freed Cuba and maintain her freedom [Applause] and when taking over the Philippines you have to the defeated and the retiring ruler millions of your money, thus establishing a standard for international morality, unprecedented in the annals of mankind. [Applause]

“Respected for this splendor of your historical record, perhaps even envied on account of the magnitude of your prosperity and wealth, admired for your inventive genius, for the immensity of your industrial achievements, you could have remained quiet now, selling your goods, acquiring new and still greater riches, enjoying the comforts and luxuries of life, accessible to almost every member of this opulent democracy, instead of that, rationing your foods, submitting yourselves to all sorts of privations, enduring patiently, good-naturedly, as only Americans can endure, every king of minor discomfort, with a spirit of sacrifice, of self-denial, and with unparalleled generosity, you opened your treasuries to exhausted, impoverished France, you opened your hearts to every suffering and stricken people, and you opened your veins that the young, rich, generous American blood may flow for the sake of human liberty [Applause]. And there you are, proud and dignified, recognized as the uncontested leader in this universal war for the freedom of the nations. [Applause]

“Mickiewicz prayed for our national arms and eagles; he has not prayed in vain. Here are our arms and eagles; here are our chivalrous knights in their uniforms, our valorous officers, [Applause] for three and a half years risking their lives in the French army, repeatedly wounded, gassed, they have been miraculously preserved for the fulfillment of the lasting patriotic, Polish National Mission. [Applause]. They will pray on the battlefield with weapons in their hands before the altar made of drums and cannons, beneath the canopy of our flags and our eagles, but they will not pray only, they will lead our sturdy determined, enthusiastic and heroic boys to battles and victories to the final and decisive triumph of democracy and humanity. [Applause].

“Mickiewicz prayed and with him over thirty million Polish people prayed and are still praying, for the freedom, independence and integrity of our country. independence, integrity and freedom have been promised to us, and we firmly believe and unshakably hope that we will get them, that we shall get them from you [Applause] and that we shall receive them at your generous American hands [Applause] if the war is won. But The war must be won. [Applause]. There must be a victory of light over darkness, of good over evil, of justice over crime. You will win this war provided that every one stands behind the President, that every one supports whole-heartedly the gigantic, magnanimous enterprise, that every one does his little bit, that every one fulfills his duties. In this colossal and enlightened democracy of yours, no man however great and noble, can realize his visions without the support of the public opinion, without the loyal and harmonious cooperation of his fellow citizens; even God himself at times calls upon men of pure minds, of strong hearts, of good will, and invites them to cooperate in his omnipotence.

You are of strong hearts, of pure minds and of good will. You are here, the most prominent, the most distinguished, the most honored citizens of this titanic, hospitable and generous city. You are the leaders of the public opinion; you are the founders, the most active and efficient members of the foremost national and patriotic American organization. To you, gentlemen, of the National Security League, we appeal. We appeal to you with confidence and with respect, and we ask you most earnestly to uphold to the ultimate end of the war, all war aims, all the principles expressed by the noble man whom you have made your chef, whom all the Allied nations have recognized as their legitimate moral leader. Wilson doctrine is the Magna Charta of mankind. For 1885 years no man on earth has ever uttered such wondrous words. They will be the pride of your grandchildren`, grandchildren, for these words, the sentiments they express, the principles they proclaim, have not been arbitrarily imposed upon you, they are yours; they are your very own, because they have been found in the bottom of your hearts, in the depths of your souls, because they have been taken out of the rich, fertile, generous soil which contains the cherished ashes of your ancestors, the founders of your nation of your country, the founders of your greatness, of your nobility, of your fame. So, in behalf of all these oppressed nations, in behalf of all friends who entrusted me today with a mission, a most flattering mission, of speaking in their name, I bid of you to help us. When this supreme task is accomplished, you will earn for yourselves and will transmit as a precious and most enviable heritage to future generations the radiant glory of benefactors of humanity. As Shakespeare says “Strong reasons call for strong actions,” so let us do it. When you say “Aye” the kings will not say “No.” [Great Applause].


[1]. Original publication data: Ignacy Jan Paderewski, “Speech to the National Security League, 3 March 1918,” in Józef Orłowski, ed. Paderewski i Odbudowa Polski, vol. 2. Chicago: The Stanek Press, 1940, original English version, p. 242-244. [Back]

[2]. The meeting of the National Security League on 3 March 1918 took place at Hotel Morrison in Chicago, with over 2000 delegates participating. The meeting included mostly Poles living in the U.S., but was also attended by representatives of Polish organizations, and the vice-president of the League, I. W. Thomas, who represented his organization. The delegates received supportive greetings from President Woodrow Wilson; other speakers included representatives of the American Army, as well as Czech and Serbian communities in the U.S.; see Orłowski, op. cit., p. 241-242. [Back]

[3]. Polish romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855) expressed his Messianic ideas about the resurrection of the Polish state and the role of Poles in world history in Księgi narodu i pielgrzymstwa polskiego [Books of Polish nation and pilgrimage] quoted here. [Back]